Neighbors or Enemies? > In a World at War

Chicago

Camille Odeh

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Director, Southwest Youth Collaborative

There were a lot of differences in the antiwar movement between the First and Second Gulf Wars. Almost a million Iraqis had to die before Americans came forward to resist the war.

It’s also a very different time. With the First Gulf War we were still in the time of the Soviet Union, of movements in solidarity with the African National Congress and the Sandinistas. The solidarity movements had connections with local social justice movements.

In the First Gulf War, Middle Eastern communities played a key role in the movement. On the left, the solidarity movements, the Palestinian community, and also the Jewish community were key. It was less of a mass movement, more demonstrations by activists. The mobilizations were more limited.

It’s very interesting this time to see that more Muslims are involved, along with remnants of the left ... But it has been largely a Muslim mobilization.

AFSC’s work over the years ultimately paid off — even though AFSC and Voices in the Wilderness were not popular while they were raising the Iraq issue and talking about the human impact of sanctions for 10 years.

People were less concerned about Iraq because they could not see beyond Saddam. This blinded many liberal people. This time, though, the antiwar movement is being led by North Americans, which is a critical political difference.

Partly that is because we feel like we’re living through another McCarthy period. Arabs and Muslims are afraid to go out and be tarred as unpatriotic. They won’t even participate as they did in 1991.